Celebrating 300 years

John Hamill on Freemasons serving the community

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

We make a  difference

While the names may be forgotten, the contributions made by individual Freemasons to local communities live on. Director of Special Projects John Hamill celebrates their efforts

During the Tercentenary celebrations, both here and overseas, there have been many references in speeches, books and exhibitions to the famous individuals who have graced our fraternity over the last 300 years – monarchs, statesmen, senior members of the armed forces, musicians, artists, writers, actors, philosophers, great philanthropists and those who have distinguished themselves in the fields of science, invention, industry and commerce.

Some of these luminaries have made major contributions to the development of Freemasonry. Others have simply enjoyed the fellowship with their fellow members, seeing their lodge as a haven of peace in an often turbulent and stressful world. We rightly remember them and give them due praise.

What we often forget and rarely praise, however, is the central core of our membership, memories of whom fade within a generation. They may not have set the world alight but in their own quiet way they have kept Freemasonry alive; preserved its principles and tenets; and selflessly passed them over to the next generation. They have, almost unconsciously, followed these principles in their private and public lives, in the process making a difference to their communities.

SERVING THE COMMUNITY

One of the American Grand Masters speaking at the 275th anniversary of Grand Lodge in 1992 characterised Freemasons as ‘doers’ in society. With a strong sense of service, they tend also to be involved in other voluntary organisations, community groups and civic life. Their activities run the gamut of community life, and these groups would be all the poorer without them.

Easy claims to make, a critic might say, but can you prove them? One source of proof is those items in lodge rooms that we all see but rarely read: the honours boards listing Past Masters of lodges, particularly those dating back to Victorian times. On a number of occasions, I have been present in a Provincial masonic hall when the editor of the local paper was being entertained. While looking at the honours boards, they often said that the Past Masters listed represented the history of the town as they were also the civic leaders and those who had developed its economy – and these people were often represented in the names of the town’s streets, buildings and recreational spaces.

We are often asked by outsiders if Freemasonry is still relevant in today’s society. Our answer has always been that we certainly are. We live in an increasingly self-orientated society in which the individual appears more important than the community, and where public and private morality is in decline.

The principles and tenets of Freemasonry and our strong tradition of community service, therefore, have a real part to play in the future of society. Freemasonry as a body has no power to change, but we as individual Freemasons can make a difference in our communities, just as our forebears did in the past.

We have been celebrating the Tercentenary of an institution, but should not forget that this institution is made up of people. We should remember with pride what our forebears have done. Their names may be forgotten, but their service, and its results, survive. We have inherited a proud tradition and should now look to the future to ensure that those principles and tenets are carried forward.

‘The principles and tenets of Freemasonry and our strong tradition of community service have a real part to play in the future of society’

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